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Release: Food Insecurity in Alberta Highest in Canada

2022 Alberta HungerCount Findings Atypical Compared to National Trends

October 27, 2022 (Leduc, Alberta) – According to the latest HungerCount report, released today by Food Banks Canada, Albertans accessed the food bank at an increase more than double the national rate in comparison to pre-pandemic levels. This information comes at a time when Albertans are facing a perfect storm of record-high inflation, soaring utility costs, and incomes that cannot keep up with the rising cost of living.

The national HungerCount report, released annually by Food Banks Canada, collects data from food banks across the country and offers insight into national food insecurity trends. The data collected is considered a moment in time snapshot of the realities facing food banks across the country, and is reflective of data gathered from food banks in March 2022. Food Banks Canada notes that despite the nation moving out of the COVID-19 pandemic, and unemployment rates dropping, more Canadians are requiring the support of food banks to make it through the month.

Key Findings

  • 156,690 Albertans accessed the food bank in March 2022, a 34% increase from 2021.
  • Over 57,750 children access food banks in Alberta.
  • 44.9% of food bank users in Alberta are families.
  • 11% of food bank users own their own homes; higher than the national average of 7.1%.
  • 59.7% of rural food bank users receive government assistance like AISH or CPP/pension.
  • 1 in 5 Albertans are experiencing food insecurity.

“These results indicate that Albertans should be treating provincial food insecurity levels like a state of emergency,” shares Arianna Scott, CEO of Food Banks Alberta. “From 2019 to 2022, we have seen an increase in food bank use by over 73%. This is an Alberta problem. It’s not isolated to one geographical area. These numbers are a reflection of the realities in communities across the province. Tens of thousands of Albertans are relying on food banks for support. We are hearing from our member food banks across the province that they just can’t keep food on their shelves because of surges in demands.”

Scott says that the numbers of people accessing the food bank are similar to those who have been impacted by provincial disasters like the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfires and the Calgary floods. “These events triggered a provincial and national-level response. What we are seeing in food bank use here today is no different. It’s unacceptable that we are experiencing these levels of food insecurity in one of the wealthiest provinces in Canada. Over 150 thousand people are accessing food banks each month just to feed their families. These are people with jobs, people who own their own homes. With a recession looming, we fear that the worst is yet to come.” 

One of the biggest challenges facing provincial food banks is not receiving any direct funding from governments to support the increasing numbers, Scott says. Food prices continued to soar in September, rising 11.4 percent to a 41-year high, a trend that is being reflected in both food bank clientele, and Food Banks Alberta food warehouse access. Perishable items and nutritious food like protein, dairy, fruits and vegetables are amongst the costliest purchases. Scott reports that member food banks have shared that they are spending upwards of 70% of their budget on food purchasing alone, a reality that is unsustainable when they too are faced with mounting fuel and utility costs. 

“As a provincial association, we see that more of our members are relying on the food support offered through our allotment program to bridge resource shortfalls, in order to meet demands in their own communities. For example, in August 2022, we supplied more than 202,004 pounds of food to member food banks; an increase of 152% since 2021,” shares Scott. “It’s simply not sustainable in the long term.”

Part of the reason for Albertans flocking to food banks is that incomes and benefits have not kept pace with the increasing cost of living. While many generalize food bank clients as people who are unemployed or reliant on social services, this is not the reality. Alberta is trending away from the national average, seeing an increase in clients who are employed, and/or own their own home, yet are struggling to make ends meet. 

“It’s significant. Alberta is experiencing increases that trend outside of the national averages, particularly when we look at statistics like the number of homeowners that are accessing the food bank. In Alberta, the rate is 11%, considerably higher than the national average of 7.8%,” shares Richard Matern, Director of Research, Food Banks Canada. “While we predicted a surge in food bank use in last year’s HungerCount report, we are now heading into uncharted territory. Normally, increases in food bank access trend closely with unemployment. We aren’t seeing that in Alberta. We know that inflation and food prices are increasing, but beyond that, it’s difficult to predict what’s to come.” 

Scott shares that food banks across the province are bracing for a busy winter season. “We get brutally cold and snowy winters here in Alberta. With the current costs of utilities, heating our homes is going to be more expensive than ever this year. There’s only so much money to go around – you can only stretch your budget so far. Coupled with a looming recession; we are expecting to see even more people requiring our support in the coming months.”

Despite these pressures, Food Banks Alberta is urging people in need to access their local food bank (www.foodbanksalberta.ca/find-your-food-bank) if they are in need of assistance, knowing that their members will make it work.  “These are grandparents, aunts, uncles, kids, and parents. There’s still a stigma attached to food banking. We are encouraging any Albertan that needs help to feed themselves or their family to reach out to their local food bank,” says Scott. “You shouldn’t have to choose between paying your bills or putting food on the table. We’re here to help.”

Food bank supports include perishable and non-perishable items, menstrual and hygiene products, household essentials, pet food and more. Hampers are accessed by calling a local food bank, and arranging assistance. Donations of food and funds are greatly appreciated. Individuals looking to support can do so online at www.foodbanksalberta.ca/donate.

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About Food Banks Alberta: 

Food Banks Alberta is the provincial association of food banks in Alberta, with a mission to strengthen the impact of the provincial food bank network by creating new opportunities, increasing knowledge, providing resources, and delivering innovative programs. We seed connections for positive social change. We are composed of a strong network of more than 110 member food banks across Alberta. 

Media Contacts:

Shannon Donogh

Food Banks Alberta, Media Relations

hello@caffeinatedcommunications.ca | 780-616-1816

or

Natalie Harper

Food Banks Alberta, Media Relations 

natalie@harperpr.com |  780-909-2281